Parents prepare teens, themselves for college

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 19, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; Leaving for college is a process that starts on day one of the senior year, for moms anyway.

The teenagers will tell you differently &8212; the senior year is enough fun to stand alone without thinking too far ahead.

But moms need more time, so they start mentally preparing early.

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Agnes Holloway kept a journal throughout her son Jamie&8217;s senior year, it&8217;s one he&8217;ll receive as a gift one day, but not yet.

&8220;It&8217;s his senior year through my eyes,&8221; she said. &8220;I wanted to keep it and write through college too.&8221;

Agnes and Donnie Holloway pulled out of Natchez Friday afternoon to take Jamie to Mississippi State University. When they return Sunday night, the house will be empty.

&8220;He&8217;s my life,&8221; Agnes said Friday. &8220;I&8217;m not even sure I want to tell him goodbye.&8221;

But that can&8217;t be avoided and the feelings are normal, Cathedral High Guidance Counselor Penny Daggett said.

&8220;I tell parents it almost seems as if God prepares you, though,&8221; Daggett said. &8220;The children are anxious; they are ready to go stretching their wings. Parents are still trying to reign them in. It almost gets to the point that you were ready for them to go. Maybe you are to the point that it&8217;s time. It doesn&8217;t mean there won&8217;t be tears.&8221;

But it&8217;s important for moms &8212; and dads &8212; to hide those tears from the children, Daggett said.

&8220;Your emotions will set the tone for the child,&8221; she said.

&8220;Just think, &8216;I&8217;m still in my happy surroundings that I&8217;m familiar with. My child is in a new dorm, with new surroundings.&8217;&8221;

Parents need to pass on strength to children who are dealing with emotions of their own, Daggett said.

Agnes and Jamie both said he is ready.

He&8217;s had Mississippi State picked out for years, and there may not be time for many trips home in the fall, he said.

Every month has a holiday, mom has pointed out, but at least one of those holidays will be consumed by the Mississippi State vs. Ole Miss football game in Oxford.

&8220;I&8217;ll try to get home once a month,&8221; Jamie said.

&8220;If he comes home once a month, and I go up there once a month, then that&8217;s every other week, isn&8217;t it?&8221; Agnes said.

Despite plans, the new freshman usually manage to find their way home quite often, Daggett said, and most even roam the halls of Cathedral a few times a year.

&8220;They are real sly about it,&8221; she said. &8220;They don&8217;t want it to just seem like every time you turn around they are already visiting.&8221;

And sometimes the best emotional medicine for a mom is to make the trip to college herself, Vidalia High School Guidance Counselor Cynthia Smith said.

&8220;I think it helps more if a parent will visit the child rather than the child coming home,&8221; Smith said. &8220;All schools have parent days, and it helps if they are far, far away. If you go visit them and see them in their element and how they are surviving just fine without you, it helps. Once you see they are truly the child you expected them to be away from you, you are a little more satisfied.&8221;

Lindy Cardneaux already has firm plans to be at Family Weekend at Ole Miss with her son Austin.

&8220;He&8217;s my only child,&8221; she said. &8220;I&8217;m really going to miss him, but I&8217;ve got to let him go. It didn&8217;t hit me at graduation. I think it will when I leave him at the dorm room and walk out.&8221;

For Claire Kenda and her mom, the separation won&8217;t be so bad. Claire will start an English degree at LSU in a few weeks, but her mom will be there too taking classes toward a dietetics degree.

&8220;I think I could squeeze in a few lunches for mom,&8221; Claire said. &8220;We&8217;ll have to see what our schedules look like.&8221;

Claire started shopping for dorm supplies at the beginning of the summer, and will spend this week packing things up. She has a rug, refrigerator, curtains, bedding, towels and throw pillows already. She&8217;ll leave on Friday.

For Jamie Holloway the load in the truck included lots of T-shirts, a futon, a PlayStation, an iPod, 11 towels, two laundry bags, sheets, two pillows, golf clubs, a computer printer (the computer will be shipped to the dorm), shoes and one tie.

Agnes did all the packing, she said.

&8220;Mom&8217;s been staying up until midnight,&8221; she said.

And she thought of the things he never would have like a first aid kit, Pledge and cleaning supplies.

But Agnes isn&8217;t too worried about Jamie being able to take care of himself once he&8217;s there.

&8220;He can get in the kitchen and do something,&8221; she said. &8220;He&8217;s got some good common sense.&8221;

Plus there&8217;s a sister is town.

The things parents worry about the most at this point in life are the simple things, Smith said.

&8220;Are they prepared, not academically, but how are they going to do without me?,&8221; Smith said. &8220;I&8217;ve prodded them into this and picked up after them. The biggest fear is how they are going to deal with life without me, more than how am I going to deal with life without them.&8221;

Agnes sees the bright side of an empty house for her too &8212; less laundry.

&8220;I&8217;m anxious to see how it&8217;s going to be,&8221; she said. &8220;To see if I can do things better when I have some time on my hands.&8221;

No matter what, Daggett said, it&8217;s time to let them go.

&8220;As a mother you are going to worry when they are asleep in the next bedroom,&8221; she said. &8220;That worry will always be there no matter where they are.&8221;